Winston's Hiccup

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A map of Jordan and its neighbors. The very large triangle of land in Saudi Arabia that points towards the Dead Sea is known as "Winston's Hiccup".

"Winston's Hiccup" (also known as "Churchill's Sneeze")[1] refers to the abruptly concave section of Jordan's eastern border with Saudi Arabia, causing the border to resemble a zigzag shape, supposedly created arbitrarily in 1921 when Winston Churchill (then serving as the Secretary of State for the Colonies) drew the boundary of the British protectorate of Transjordan following a "particularly liquid lunch".[1] The legend arose after Churchill himself boasted in his later years that he had created Jordan "with the stroke of a pen, one Sunday afternoon in Cairo".[2] Nevertheless, the supposed involvement of alcohol in the drawing of the border as well as Churchill's claimed sole responsibility over it are both almost certainly apocryphal.[1]

Although the modern border is a result of a later territorial exchange between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the general angle of the Hiccup remains similar, while the location of the vertex remains the same.[3] The two straight borderlines making up the modern Winston's Hiccup consist of one line running 90 miles northwest, at whose end the border creates an acute angle, and the continuing line which runs for 130 miles northeast towards the Iraqi border.[1] The acute angle created points directly towards the Dead Sea on the other side of Jordan. The triangular part of Saudi Arabia bordering Winston's Hiccup and thus jutting into Jordan is also the closest part of the country to Jerusalem, at just over 100 miles.[1]

Complex and seemingly arbitrary Middle Eastern borders such as Winston's Hiccup often took the movements and lands of tribal nomads into consideration in attempting to create practical borders. In the modern era, Jordan's boundaries with Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq do not generally hamper nomads in their movements, although for a few tribes the borders do technically separate them from traditional grazing areas. Conversely, the border between Jordan and Israel is governed more heavily. Officially, the borders were set by a series of agreements between the United Kingdom and the government of what eventually became Saudi Arabia, first formally defined in the Hadda Agreement of 1925.[4] In 1965, Jordan and Saudi Arabia concluded a bilateral agreement that realigned and defined the boundary.[3] The realignment resulted in some exchange of territory, and Jordan's coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba was lengthened by about 18 kilometers.

Image showing the approximate land exchanged between Jordan (gaining green) and Saudi Arabia (gaining red).

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